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Gas well could be ‘extremely big’

NATCHEZ — A drill tip aimed 22,000 feet below the surface in Jefferson County would have undeniable effects in the Miss-Lou if it finds what its operators are after.

Mainland Resources of The Woodlands, Texas, started drilling last week at the site of a former Chevron gas well near Rodney Island. The site is a part of the Haynesville Shale, a natural gas field responsible for booming business in the Shreveport, La., area.

President Mike Newport is hopeful the vertical test drill will be complete in five to six months, but he’s not yet ready to predict exactly how much gas his company may find.

“I’d hate to say,” he said. “It could be extremely big. It has a lot of potential.”

History

Natchez resident Jack Cox is quite familiar with the Jefferson County site.

He was working for Chevron in 1981 when the company drilled 22,000 feet down, found gas, hit trouble and abandoned the site for fear of an uncontrolled blowout.

The high-pressure, high-heat well that took nearly a year and a half, according to Cox, was too much for 1980s drilling equipment, but with new technology comes new opportunities, he said.

“I’ve done some additional review and started re-looking at the data,” said Cox, who has owned and operated Anderson Oil Company in Natchez since leaving Chevron after work at the site in 1981.

Cox knew Mainland Resources was working on the Haynesville Shale near Shreveport, and gave Newport a call. The men met, Cox offered his help, and work to acquire a lease in the area began.

The dig

Mainland Resources leased 17,500 acres, some of which is in Tensas Parish, La. Their work in the area began more than a year ago. The well has been named the named the Burkley Phillips No. 1 well.

Mainland is an independent oil and gas exploration, development and production company formed in early 2008.

Its stock is traded on the OTC Bulletin Board an over-the-counter trading platform.

With data from the Chevron dig in hand, the company has contracted with RAPAD Drilling and Well Service of Laurel and Jackson to do the initial drilling.

Several Natchez drillers confirmed that no local company has a rig big enough to do the work RAPAD is doing.

The completed well cost is estimated at $13.5 million, Newport said.

“If this works, we could be very busy over there,” Newport said. “We could have an excess of 225 locations on an 80-acre site.

“This could be ongoing; it takes a while to drill and complete the well, and we are taking all the precautions with this first well. We want to be extra careful, and we’ll learn from this first well.”

Mainland Resources already completed an approximately 15-mile road to the dig site, and more such work may be coming, Newport said.

If the site is a success, Mainland may look to local workers for everything from roadwork to drilling needs, he said.

Economic impact

If the natural gas find is a big one, the Miss-Lou and surrounding area stands to see tremendous benefits, area oil and gas experts said.

“If they were ever to find something out there that was in quantities that would become commercial, that would lead to several things,” W.T. Drilling President Leo Joseph said. “The state tax commission would receive the severance tax, and that would in turn help local communities.”

The oil rig workers on the site now are likely already impacting businesses in the immediate area with simple things like lunch purchases, Joseph said.

Oil field suppliers and drilling companies from Brookhaven into the Miss-Lou will benefit, along with those in the logging and land industry.

Local geologists and rig workers could be hired as the process goes on.

Right now, the dig work is so deep that most Miss-Lou companies are unable to assist, Energy Drilling Company Drilling Manager Jody Helbling said. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t money to be had later on.

“If it became a big player, I don’t think it would boom right away,” Helbling said. “Not a lot of rigs can handle that. But if it became a big deal and they could prove it to be a widespread thing, in the future, it would definitely be good for our industry.”

Joseph agreed.

“If it’s a success, it can’t be anything but good.”

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